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Major meteor showers predicted in the next month

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posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:26 PM
This time of year sees the Earth moving into a particularly cluttered part of the solar system. The space we are moving through is littered with the debris that has been ejected from comets. In the next 30 days we will encounter the meteoroids/debris trails from multiple comets, but there are three encounters in particular which are of interest. Experienced sky watchers will be aware of two of these meteor showers, but there is also a bonus encounter with a recently discovered meteoroid stream that most if not all will be unfamiliar with.


The first of these encounters in a little over a week's time is with with the debris of 3200 Phaethon which is the cause of the well known but enigmatic Geminid meteor shower. Unusually for meteor showers, the Geminids parent body 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid, where as most other meteor showers are caused by debris from comets.

The Geminids are also known as one of the most reliable and strong meteor showers of the year, very rarely disappointing observers in terms of meteors per hour at peak as long as skies stay clear, although this can be a problem for observers in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year.

The Geminids are a shower that has a relatively prolonged peak, which this year is predicted to occur at 23h30m UT December 13, but due to the prolonged peak, rates usually remain relatively high in the nights either side of the peak, giving observers around the world a chance to see something, although observers in western Europe are favored due to the predicted timing of this year's peak. Usually at peak anywhere from 100-200 meteors per hour can be expected by those observing under ideal conditions, but it's worth observing the nights either side of the peak night, especially if the weather conditions are unfavorable for the peak night.

Geminid meteors are medium speed meteors which enter the atmosphere at a relative speed of 35 km/s, and are often bright, but also long lasting thanks to their relatively low speed and high density. Often they are described as being white or yellow in colour, and they will always travel away from the constellation Gemini which is where the Geminid radiant is located.

They can be observed as soon as it starts to get dark, but since the radiant is just on the horizon at this time, rates will not be as high as later on in the night when the radiant climbs high in the sky for Northern hemisphere observers. They may be few and far between at the start of the night, but Geminids seen soon after the Sun has set will often be a spectacular and unusually long lasting type of meteor known as an Earth grazer since they skim the outer edge of our atmosphere, never really penetrating deep into the atmosphere due to their low entry angles.

Look for Geminid grazers in the Northern part of the sky. They will appear to travel either upwards and away from the horizon or at any angle up to and including horizontally along the horizon, but always traveling away from the area of sky in which the Geminid radiant is located.

One big bonus this year for both visual meteor shower observers and photographers alike is that the Moon will be out of the way, meaning that it will be easier to see and photograph fainter meteors. With less light pollution around, rates will appear to be higher than in years when the Moon is a problem, so I would say this is a good year to try to observe Geminids, especially for those who have not observed them before.

December phi Cassiopeiids

The next major encounter after the Geminids is an encounter with meteoroids belonging to the recently discovered December phi Cassiopeiid meteor shower. Since this is a new meteor shower and there are few previous observations of meteors belonging to this shower or it's parent body, there is some uncertainty as to exactly what we will see in this year's encounter with the December phi Cassiopeiid meteor stream.

According to meteor shower researcher Jeremie Vaubaillon of the IMCCE there is a good chance that we will encounter a strong but relatively brief shower of December phi Cassiopeiids on New Year's Eve @ 16:10 UT which best suited for observers that are East of Eastern Europe. In western Europe the Sun will only just have set at this time, so it may be difficult to see anything unless the meteors are quite bright, which may be the case, but we won't know till afterwards.

An outburst is expected on Dec. 31st at 16:10 (UT ; Sol Long=279.4584 deg). ZHR is unknown from lack of comet observation parameters considerations, but as the plot shows, many particles from the 1969 trail (i.e. ejected before the encounter of the comet with Jupiter in 1972) are found in the path of the Earth. Distance between the Earth and the center of the trail: -0.00349 AU.

Source: IMCCE

This diagram shows Earth's position during the dates from December 31 - January 12 in relation to the December phi Cassiopeiids meteoroid stream:

Note how Earth passes through a comparatively dense part of the stream (represented by black dots) on New Year's Eve.

People located in Eurasia/Africa should be alert for slow (16.4 km/s - less than half the speed of the Geminids) meteors traveling away from the constellation Cassiopeia where the December phi Cassiopeiid radiant is located.


Finally, between January 3-5, arguably the joint strongest/most reliable (along with the Geminids) meteor shower of the year will peak. So far I have not come across published predictions for next year's Quadrantids, but I will post an update and more information as soon as I do.

Observing meteor showers in winter

As noted at the start of my post, the weather conditions at this time of year can seriously hamper observing meteor showers, but with multiple strong showers expected, it's a great chance to observe meteors if you are willing to brave the cold.

As with any meteor shower, don't expect to see the best the shower has to offer unless you put in a bit of effort. This means planning ahead and doing a few things that will help you to have a good experience.

Firstly, find a good observing site, well away from light pollution, that also has good all-round views and as few as possible objects to obstruct your view of the horizon.

Secondly, be aware that under clear skies, and especially in winter, it will get cold very quickly if you are not moving around much, so put on multiple layers of warm cloths, and jump into one or two sleeping bags, that are off the ground (a sun-bed that goes flat or a camp-bed would work well).

With meteor showers you want to be on your back, and facing directly or nearly directly (in the case of Earth-grazers) up.

Thirdly, don't expect to see much unless you spend a bit of time observing. Besides giving your eyes time to adapt to dim light, you are less likely to experience low rates, and more likely to see fireballs if you observe for a few hours, or better yet the whole night.

If you plan to observe any length of time, you want to be reasonably comfortable/warm, so pay special attention to the first two points, or be prepared to cut your observing short and/or not have a very good experience.

With a little planning observing winter meteor showers can be very rewarding, and you can stay warm/comfortable to boot!

Related links and general observing tips

Meteor shower info, history, and observations
Previous year's ZHR graphs

Basic visual meteor shower observation techniques
How to Observe Meteor Showers
How to View Meteor Showers - How to "See More Meteors"

This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:

1. It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when facing directly upwards.

2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket (or even less) to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple layers of warm cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time if you live away from the equator. If you are too warm (unlikely in most cases) then you can always remove a layer of cloths or two.

3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which you should be if you want to catch any meteors, although you may get lucky and catch a bright meteor anyway), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10 seconds. See links below for more info.

Advanced visual meteor shower observation techniques

Photographing meteors

General information
The IAU Meteor Data Center(list of known meteor showers)

Organizations and mailing lists
edit on 4-12-2012 by FireballStorm because: formatting + ran out of room

edit on 4-12-2012 by FireballStorm because: typo

posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:36 PM
Cool, can't wait.
(Except, too bad no one will be around to see it).

edit on 4-12-2012 by JericoEBE because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:37 PM
All the part for my all sky camera are on their way. (e-bay order)
Well I don't get back home from work until Dec 18 so the Geminid meteors are out

Maybe I will have better luck with the other two.
edit on 4-12-2012 by Trillium because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:38 PM

Major meteor showers predicted in the next month

It's December of 2012. Of course one is. What would this month be without one of the strongest showers of the year? Surely something about this one will stand out, too. Peaks...on the 13? But could be 24hrs either the 12th? I hope no one was dyslexic in translating the day part of the Maya dateline.

Seriously I do have a real question. These are always real small debris type meteorites right? Never large debris in these fields, are there? I mean I've never even considered that before ...but this would be the year and month and week, no less.... It's one of those periods of time, isn't it? (You'd even have a legitimate use and desire for rather large but overall short term underground protection..)

err.. nvm.. Coincidence. I'm sure it'll be a good show if we can catch clear skies over this area for it.


posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:41 PM
Did you forget were not going to be here next month? We are waiting for Dec. 24th.
The end of times..........

Dat dat dat...... da.............

But in case we survive, I marked it on my calendar.

edit on 4-12-2012 by Manhater because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 4 2012 @ 10:49 PM
Very Strange that we are just now discussing this meteor shower. NASA said Decemeber 21 2012 would be nothing special, but this could be the best meteor shower in history. A little confusing.

posted on Dec, 5 2012 @ 07:00 AM
reply to post by FireballStorm

Good thread, very informative and no final judgement paranoia.

posted on Dec, 5 2012 @ 09:14 AM
thanks for the heads up
i will be watching while the world ends around me!

posted on Dec, 5 2012 @ 09:29 AM
Nice post but I'm already finding this months to be very active here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Just two nights ago in the space of 15 minutes I saw seven brilliant streaks across the sky, I just wish one would land right by my feet so I could sell it!

posted on Dec, 5 2012 @ 06:34 PM
Thank you all for the replies and comments.

reply to post by Trillium

Good to hear you'll have your camera set up soon. I'm still looking for a super fast lens for my camera as well as a few other bits. Haven't had the time to look recently, but hopefully I'll have a bit more time soon.

Regarding the December phi Cassiopeiids, I always struggle to work out time-zones, but I think you might have trouble observing the outburst if it occurs at 16:10 UT as predicted, as it may still be daylight where you are. Of course, due to the uncertainty, the predicted time might be off by a bit, so you might be in luck.

You shouldn't have much trouble observing the Quadrantids though, as long as it's clear, but it's going to be very cold if you are observing visually, so be prepared for that.

Originally posted by Wrabbit2000
Seriously I do have a real question. These are always real small debris type meteorites right? Never large debris in these fields, are there? I mean I've never even considered that before ...but this would be the year and month and week, no less.... It's one of those periods of time, isn't it? (You'd even have a legitimate use and desire for rather large but overall short term underground protection..)

err.. nvm.. Coincidence. I'm sure it'll be a good show if we can catch clear skies over this area for it.

I wouldn't go as far as saying there are never large chunks of a parent body together with the smaller meteoroids that make up our meteor showers, but there has not been a confirmed case in recorded history of anything ever making it down to the ground that is connected with an annual meteor shower.

As you suggested, most meteor showers are composed of meteoroids that are much too small to be a concern.

To put this into perspective, our Earth is under constant bombardment from outer space. We know of more that 500 annual meteor showers, yet it's another source altogether which bombards us with objects that regularly survive passage through our atmosphere, and make it to the ground. That source is random asteroids originating from the asteroid belt.

These objects are much more of a worry than annual meteor showers, but even so, it's very rare for anything to make it through our atmosphere with enough force to cause damage on the ground. The vast majority of meteorite falls are the result of large objects (a few meters across) that break up at high altitude into small pieces which are quickly decelerated by the atmosphere and fall to the ground relatively harmlessly.

So yes, enjoy observing meteor showers, and don't worry about them - there is vastly more chance of you/us coming to grief from terrestrial sources of danger.

Originally posted by truthinfact
Very Strange that we are just now discussing this meteor shower. NASA said Decemeber 21 2012 would be nothing special, but this could be the best meteor shower in history. A little confusing.

I very much doubt the outburst of December phi Cassiopeiids predicted for New Year's Eve will be the "best meteor shower in history". It may turn out to be intense compared to our usual annual meteor showers, but it probably won't be on the scale of some meteor storms Earth has experienced in the past.

Also, there is nothing of significance as far as I can tell that has been forecast for Decemeber 21 2012 - all the predictions I posted in my OP are for different dates, so I'm a little confused where you are seeing a connection?

If you are waiting for a meteor shower that has the potential to be of "historic proportions", a much better bet would be the meteor shower predicted to be caused by comet 209P/LINEAR (2004 CB) in 2014, but there is also still some uncertainty as to exactly what that shower will produce.

reply to post by studio500


Yes, as I mentioned, there are multiple meteor shower streams active at this time of year, so there is a good chance you will see a few meteors on any given night if you observe for a bit. You should be able to see significantly more meteors during the peaks of the showers I mentioned though

Unfortunately, as I replied above to Wrabbit2000, there is no connection with meteorite falls and meteor showers, although I too have often wished there was

posted on Dec, 6 2012 @ 06:06 AM
I'm waiting until there's a meteor shower called the Hominides

On a serious note, I hope for the clear skies. But this is England, and weather is usually very uncooperative. Sometimes I'm thinking of moving to the Chilean desert.

posted on Dec, 6 2012 @ 09:55 AM
reply to post by wildespace

I've had good luck in the past with the Geminids by checking the weather satellite maps a few hours in advance and then driving to where it looks like it will be clear - there are usually clear (or mostly clear) areas of sky within a few hours drive.

The downside is trying to find a suitable observing site at the last minute. It usually means looking for a field with the gate left open. Very few farmers do these days, and you risk potential confrontation if you find one, but in my experience most farmers are sympathetic and happy to let you stay on their land as long as you are sensible.

The Quadrantids have proved to be even more difficult to observe in the past, but I firmly believe that if I keep trying, eventually I'll get lucky.

Anyway, hopefully we'll have clear skies all round this time.

posted on Dec, 6 2012 @ 08:10 PM
thanks for the info.

im sure we will see more meteors (or atleast where i am living)

now i am prepared

posted on Dec, 11 2012 @ 07:54 PM
Another reason meteors may be more numerous than usual this year

A New Meteor Shower in December?

Dec. 11, 2012: If you're outdoors after sunset this week, be alert for meteors. Not only is the Geminid meteor shower active as Earth passes through a stream of debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, but also, say forecasters, a new meteor shower could make an appearance.

"The source of the new shower is Comet Wirtanen," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Dust from this comet hitting Earth's atmosphere could produce as many as 30 meteors per hour."

Comet Wirtanen was discovered in 1948, just after World War II, and takes 5.4 years to orbit the sun. It reaches its closest point to the sun just outside Earth's orbit. Although this comet has skirted Earth's orbit many times, Earth has not run into its debris streams before. 2012 could be different.

Computer models run by Russian forecaster Mikhail Maslov predict as many as four stream crossings between Dec. 10th and 14th.

"This time period also includes the peak of the strong annual Geminid meteor shower," notes Cooke.

Source: click here to read the rest of the article

A quick update on the Geminids too - The International Meteor Organization has now published a "live ZHR" graph that will give you an idea what the Geminids have been doing in terms of rates. It's not always100% reliable (sometimes mistakes are made), but you can see that rates are starting to pick up now.

It looks like I may be out for the count this year - managed to pick up a cold
Even more frustrating, it's been clear for the last few nights and it looks like it will stay clear for the Geminids... of all the times to not be well

Hope everyone else has better luck this year!

posted on Dec, 30 2012 @ 05:22 PM
Just a quick bump/reminder that we are only a few hours away from the predicted December phi Cassiopeiids meteor shower peak.

Good luck folks

posted on Jan, 1 2013 @ 10:54 AM
Well, the predicted December phi Cassiopeiid outburst did not materialize, although some observers did report one or two meteors that might be December phi Cassiopeiid candidates. That was always the danger with this meteor shower since there few observations of the parent body or meteors belonging to the shower in the past. That is not to say that we could see a shower or outbursts from this meteoroid stream in the future, so it's one to keep an eye on.

As promised earlier in the thread, here is an update on the expected Quadrantid meteor shower peak:

According to Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society, the peak should occur on Thursday morning January 3rd. Unfortunately the bright gibbous moon will drown out fainter Quadrantid meteors and reduce the overall visual rate this year, but as always with strong meteor showers like the Quadrantids, there should still be at least a few meteors to see if you are observing under transparent skies.

I hope some ATSers get to see a few - unfortunately I have to be up early on Thursday for an appointment, but I may try and catch a few late stragglers (weather permitting) in the evening.

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